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APEX Insight: As passengers increasingly expect a high-quality browsing experience on board,  Routehappy’s report reveals airlines are responding to this demand. Six percent of US-based airlines now offer high-speed Wi-Fi in flight – compared to less than one percent in 2015. But as connectivity bolsters, so does pressure on in-seat power. “Many airlines are now recognizing that unless they offer in-seat power, passengers will be less inclined to pay for Wi-Fi connectivity,” says Jason Rabinowitz, Routehappy.

At the beginning of 2015, less than one percent of US-based airlines could claim to offer “best” quality Wi-Fi. That number has since grown to six percent of all in-flight Wi-Fi options offered internationally.

Air industry analysts Routehappy have just released their 2016 report on the global state of in-flight Wi-Fi and it has some notable findings. Last year, eight airlines added Wi-Fi technology to their passenger airplanes, bringing the total number of airlines offering Internet onboard to 60 worldwide. Flyers now have a shot at a Wi-Fi connection on approximately 36 percent of available seat miles (ASMs) internationally. US-based airlines are at the forefront of this trend, offering Wi-Fi on 78 percent of their ASMs, while non-US airlines offer a 24 percent chance on average.

Virgin America remains the most Wi-Fi-equipped fleet in the US, offering some form of connectivity on nearly 100 percent of flights, but in terms of the number of airplanes offering high speed in-flight browsing, Delta Air Lines, United and American Airlines are the three to beat. Dubai’s Emirates isn’t far behind, further narrowing the gap by offering double the number of long-haul ASM’s with Wi-Fi than any of their competitors internationally.

Virgin America remains the most Wi-Fi-equipped fleet in the US.

We asked Routehappy’s data research manager Jason Rabinowitz which regional market currently has the most potential for IFEC growth, and according to Rabinowitz, it’s Europe. “There are virtually no airlines offering Wi-Fi operating within Europe right now,” he says. “The demand is certainly there, but now it’s up to the airlines to begin the costly and time-consuming rollout process.” 

Online illustrations- Passenger PED B

Of the ASMs that offer at least a chance of Wi-Fi, 6% now offer the best kind that allows for high bandwidth access, including video streaming. Source: Routehappy.

Routehappy’s report makes it clear that there’s more demand than ever for a high-quality browsing experience onboard. It’s no longer acceptable to simply have a Wi-Fi connection; passengers want a browsing experience that’s equivalent to what they can get at home. Airlines are responding to the demand by integrating the newest Wi-Fi technology, enabling faster connections that will more readily allow activities like online streaming. Several airlines are already implementing third-generation in-flight Wi-Fi.

At the beginning of 2015, less than one percent of US-based airlines could claim to offer “best” quality Wi-Fi. That number has since grown to six percent of all in-flight Wi-Fi options offered internationally. JetBlue is nearing full integration of broadband-level web services across its entire fleet and Amazon Prime members flying the low-cost carrier can already stream thousands of movies and TV episodes available via Amazon Prime Video; Virgin America is currently rolling out a similar system.

2016 has already been a significant year for in-flight Wi-Fi, but there’s still plenty of room for airlines to bolster their services and offer an even better browsing experience. One huge opportunity for improvement is in-seat power availability.

“Many airlines are now recognizing that unless they offer in-seat power, passengers will be less inclined to pay for Wi-Fi connectivity.” – Jason Rabinowitz, Routehappy

“Many airlines are now recognizing that unless they offer in-seat power, passengers will be less inclined to pay for Wi-Fi connectivity because they may want to preserve battery power for when they arrive,” says Rabinowitz. “In-seat power is becoming more and more commonplace, but there is still a long way to go before every seat has a power or USB port. The two amenities, Wi-Fi and in-flight power, should really always complement each other.”

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Fergus Baird is a freelance writer and editor currently living in Montreal. Follow his oddball alter ego on Twitter and Instagram for observations on weird life in the city and beyond.